Reflections of Eastern Mennonite Seminary School for Leadership Training
Mosaic Conference was represented by a number of pastors at the annual Eastern Mennonite Seminary School for Leadership Training, held January 11-15 via Zoom.
The virtual platform had its pros and cons. Ken Burkholder, pastor of Deep Run East (Perkasie, PA), debated whether to participate in a virtual conference, but did, despite missing connecting in person with friends and colleagues.
Rodger Schmell, pastor of Deep Run West (Perkasie, PA), liked the virtual format because “[it] allowed me to participate without the hassle of travel and COVID precautions.” However, Schmell agreed with Burkholder, “There is a greater depth of interaction and energy with a speaker when meeting face to face.”
Sandy Drescher-Lehman, pastor of Methacton (Norristown, PA) Mennonite, and Wayne Nitzsche, pastor of Perkasie (PA) Mennonite, reported that they were more easily distracted with home or church life interruptions, making it harder to stay attentive and connected. Overall, all of us agreed that the overall theme, speakers, and topics exceeded our expectations, despite the drawbacks.
The theme of the week was “From Surviving to Thriving…God Breathes Fresh Hope.” Meghan Larissa Good, teaching pastor of Trinity Mennonite (Glendale, AZ), presented the keynote titled, “Leadership in Desert Places: Stories from the Wilderness.”
Good recounted Moses’ response to God’s call in Exodus 3. Moses wasn’t sure he was up for the challenge of leading the people saying, “Who Am I?” But, God assures Moses by saying, “I Am…” affirming the presence and power of God in the moment and in God’s past guidance and actions.
Burkholder related Good’s reflections to the current challenge of leading during this time of uncertainty observing, “This was a timely word of grace and encouragement to me.” Drescher-Lehman added, “Maybe the wilderness for the Israelites was about learning to trust God so they would be ready, eventually, to build God’s kingdom.” She wondered whether we are using the wilderness of COVID-19 to build our trust in God and discern God’s call.
Schmell appreciated Good’s seminar, Introducing Communities to the Work of the Spirit. Good’s challenge, “You can’t live a Christ-centered life without the Spirit and you can’t live a Spirit-filled life without Jesus,” inspired Rodger to preach a sermon series on the Spirit.
Schmell was also challenged in a seminar on anger and reconciliation by Michael Gulker, President of the Colossians Forum. As a person who does not enjoy conflict, Schmell was nudged to see conflict as a “gift rather than a wedge.” Gulker encouraged, “What if we could harness the energy around conflict and use it as combustion for God’s people?”
Wayne Nitzsche appreciated the input of David Fitch, Pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community in Chicago. Fitch explained that our personal beliefs lock us into positions. In those locked positions, we no longer hear each other or can be in a relationship because we don’t share the same beliefs. Rather than debate and try to convince others of our point of view, we do well to listen and focus on building relationships.
Drescher-Lehman appreciated, Ministry in a Post-COVID World, led by Amy Gingrich and Joe Hackman, both of Menno Media. The pandemic has accelerated the shifts and trends already impacting the church. Some of these shifts include intergenerational education, cooperation with other churches, partnerships with organizations that are doing their one thing well, welcoming occasional or online-only people rather than assuming everyone will stay so we can count them in our membership. Drescher-Lehman was encouraged that Methacton is already making changes to live into this next phase of Christendom.